Good LACs that give full ride scholarships

Hello everyone,

I would like to attend a liberal arts college and major in genetics, mathematical biology, or molecular biology for my undergraduate education to be able to then get into a great PhD program dealing with genetics. What are my chances at getting full tuition/full ride scholarships at mid-high tier LACs? (ACT average range from 28-32; acceptance rate 10-50%). I would like to save as much money as I can in my undergraduate education so I am not in debt when I start graduate school.

Some examples I’ve looked at are Sewanee, Wofford, Wake Forest, and Gustavus Adolphus, but any LAC that has good undergrad research (for graduate school chances) and that offers great scholarships would interest me. I’d love any recommendations!

Demographic :

White male in Minnesota, middle/high family income.

Academics :

GPA: 4.0 UW/4.15 W

Rank: 15/400

Two Time Honors Student

ACT: Taking in 2 days (predicted 35)

SAT Subject Tests: Taking Math II (predicted 780+) Bio (predicted 700) and World History (predicted 780) in August

AP Classes Taken: Euro (5), Lang & Comp (4) as a sophomore.

Dual Enrollment Classes: I am going full time PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) at my local state college my junior and senior year to obtain an associate’s degree by the time I graduate high school to (hopefully) transfer credits to whatever college I go to. The only class I’m sticking with at my high school is band. Yes, this does mean that I will probably have no other AP classes.

My classes for Fall 2019 include US History II, Introductory Bio 1, Intro to Honors, Understanding Politics, and Intro to American Politics.


College Honors Student

Attended Rotary Youth Leadership Camp

Accepted into Minnesota All-State Band

Symphonic band trombone section leader

Member of the high school jazz band (Only freshman in the jazz band who got to tour in New York City)

Four year member of the marching band

Member of the school Brass Quintet

Member of the Pit Orchestra

Member of Show Choir Band

Member of the local Community Band

Local summer music camp trombone section leader

15.5 million words read my sophomore year (got a library award)

Perfect attendance in school since 6th grade

High School Math League

Trying to found an Academic Decathlon team for next year (likely to go through)

Petitioning School Board for a legislation change (Does this show initiative; should I put it down?)

Camp Leader & mentor at local summer camp

Boy Scout for 1 year

Two time Math Counts state competitior (middle school)

Nation Junior Honor Society member (middle school)

Played football from 3rd-9th grade (quit to to head injury concerns)

Thanks in advance!

Your ECs are weak which will make a full ride very difficult. I see no leadership or volunteerism, which is important for a full rides.

Anyway, check out: Centre, Furman, Wofford, Hendrix

Full tuition: Denison, Furman, Rhodes, Wheaton, St. Lawrence, Lewis & Clark, Knox, Southwestern, Cornell College, Goucher

Good luck!

Would a LAC necessarily be a great choice for you if you complete most of the lower level college course work while in high school? A student fitting your profile is more likely to run into the “run out of upper level courses to take” problem. An in-state public school like UMN-TC may have a greater range of upper level (and graduate level) courses available, and may be more likely to accept your PSEO college courses for credit, subject credit, and advanced placement, perhaps giving you the best chance to graduate early if necessary for money reasons.

Is a full ride necessary to afford college, or will your parents actually contribute something?

I agree with the UMN-TC recommendation (or if you want something smaller, how about UMN-Morris?), since you’ll have so many PSEO credits. UMN-TC would be cheaper than Gustavus or St. Olaf even with their biggest scholarships. The U of MN, unlike many other big universities, has a separate College of Biological Sciences which may help things feel a little smaller, and there’s a Biology LLC for first-year students in one of the dorms. Average ACT for CBS is 29-33.

I doubt your community college credits can be used at most LACs. I would check on that. And ECs and awards from middle school aren’t used for college admissions.

I would like to attend a LAC because I like small settings — I was raised in a town of ~40k and like quiet places especially — and because I want to develop a personal relationship with my professors to not only develop my skills, but to also be taken under their wing in assisting with research. The dream, of course, would be to get published.

At a large state school, I feel like I would not get to work with professors, but rather with their graduate students, therefore getting less and hindering my academic development.

On the other hand, you have a good point about running out of classes to take, especially if I am looking to rack up research experience before graduation. Do you if UMN-TC or any other college has an accelerated master’s program in biology? The only one I have been able to find is at the University of Tulsa, a school that greatly interests me with its funding, smaller size, and before mentioned master’s program. Do you think they would fit my needs? I saw some full ride programs on their website.

My parents have told me, really nonchalantly, that they will contribute 10-20k per year IF NECESSARY, but “we would like to save that for graduate school” (PhD). I mean, I think they would pay 20-30k per year if I persuaded them enough, but in all reality, I would love to save as much as I can in undergrad as well. We both want a full ride scholarship, which probably is more important than an LAC. Graduate school, I’ve heard, is not dependent on your college, but what you put into your undergraduate years — connections, research, TA positions, etc. Do you think UMN-TC offer me a merit based full tuition/full ride scholarship? They would be one of my prospects if so.



I’ve talked to Gustavus and they have said that most of my credits would be likely to be transferred. They accept up to 64 credits if you have you associate’s degree, which I plan to have by the time I graduate high school.


What is a Biology LLC? Does the UMN-Morris have a separate Biology department? I prefer smaller towns and smaller schools because I want to be able to connect with professors and because I enjoy solitude a lot — I’m a massive reader.

Would the U of MN-TC offer me merit-based scholarships? How much of my yearly tuition would be payed for? One of my concerns is being able to connect with and research with professors themselves, not just be swatted around by their graduate students in labs. That’s also why I’m hesitant about state schools. Are my worries valid?

Thanks for the help!

PhD programs worth attending should be fully funded with a tuition waiver and a living expense stipend in exchange for teaching assistant and/or research assistant work. So do not worry about needing lots of money to attend a PhD program.

However, $10k-20k is not a lot. UMN-TC is about $29k ($27k billed), while UMN-Morris (public LAC) is about $25k ($22k billed). If they will only pay $10k, you would need to work a lot to earn enough money to cover the gap after taking the $5.5k direct loan. If they will pay $20k, you have a little more breathing room on costs.

There are competitive merit scholarships:

Sorry for using an acronym without explaining it. LLC stands for Living and Learning Community. It’s just a section of a dorm set aside for students with a common interest. It can make it easier to meet people and form study groups.

You’d find lots of other smart kids who love to learn there, including some who are big readers, and some who also come from outside the Twin Cities.

It’s hard to say how big of a scholarship you could get. Full tuition is highly unlikely. There’s no separate scholarship application, so it wouldn’t hurt to apply for admission and see what they offer. You can find a list of scholarships on their website.

A relative of mine is a CBS grad and she said the best thing to do is get a part-time job working in a research lab, for the experience and to start to make connections. You should be able to interact with professors in your upper-division courses especially. Maybe attend a tour and ask some of your questions, to get a feel for what it’s like.

Morris does seem to have a Biology department, and one of the focuses you can choose for the major is cellular/molecular biology.

I hope that helps!

Don’t discount applying to a larger school’s honors college. My D ate dinner with one of her profs weekly, is working side by side this summer with profs and is on a first name basis with the assoc. director of the honors program in her major. She’s at a big state flagship.

There are a whole bunch of public universities in Minnesota that might be in the size range you are looking for. You also could check the publics in Wisconsin that have tuition exchange with Minnesota.

If the OP attends a college that accepts his associate’s degree, would he have to apply as a transfer student, and not a first-year student? I’m wondering the implications of coming in with two years worth of credit, and how that affects his hunt for merit money.

@ranttila, are you taking math and foreign language next year as a junior? And does your high school rank by weighted or unweighted GPA? If they use weighted, I’m thinking your rank will not be #15 when you are applying to college since you won’t get “credit” for advanced classes while your peers who remain at the high school will. Just an observation.

@curiousme2 at most colleges you are a freshman for applications if you have not graduated high school. But, it is always best to check with each school.

It is important for you to know how each school will count your community college courses, and your associate’s degree. Some colleges may not accept those credits if they are counted as part of your high school curriculum. It is possible done schools will consider you a transfer student if you go in with those credits. Many colleges limit and restrict how much credit they give for college courses take. During high school. Colleges vary on how they treat your sort of situation so you need to find out how each college handles your situation. Also departments within a college may look at those courses differently than others.

Transfer students are often not eligible for some awards and financial aid. Again this varies from school to school. You say Gustavus will give you up to 64 credits if you have an associates degree? Will they still consider you a freshman in that case or as a transfer student? Would you be eligible for financial aid and all of their freshman scholarships if you come in with an associates degree and two years worth of credits? You have to ask the questions very specifically to address your situation

So you now know that your parents are willing and able to pay $10-20k a year for you. You can estimate what you can pay with jobs, your own savings and maybe that $5500 Direct Student Losm you can take out the first year. The next important step is to figure out what you and your family are expected to pay for college. You and your parents should fill out a FAFSA EFC estimator to find out what the LEAST you are expected to pay. That doesn’t mean any school will let you go there for that amount , but it gives you a starting point. If your number is way high , it means limited or no financial aid is likely to be available for you

You then can use the financial info your parents shared with you to run NPCs for individual schools on your list. If a school gives zero merit money, and your expected cost is way over $20k, it is unaffordable to you.

You can look up what kind of Merit money your schools offer in the financial info section of the Common Data Sets. That can give you some idea how much in scholarship money is available for each school

I have found Catholic schools are often generous with merit money, so look at some of those as well as making sure you have a school you know will take you and is affordable on your list.

Then start looking at the lottery ticket schools.


I’m not taking math first semester, but I plan on taking statistics second semester to fulfill high school graduation requirements. I do not plan on taking a foreign language in the next two years. My college does not require it for liberal ed.

GPA is ranked by the weighted score. And yes, you are correct about the fact that my GPA will remain stagnant while my classmates will rise (and maybe fall) with AP classes. However, I am making a legislation proposal to my school board to change PSEO classes to be weighted, just as AP and College in The High School classes are.


I understand that cities like St. Paul offer a lot of opportunity, but to be honest the high paced, high stress lifestyle of them kind of scare me. Driving, from experience, worries me, and all the noise doesn’t really suit me at all. I think you can walk to a lot of places, but driving is a necessity. I mean, my favourite thing is to put some earplugs in and read. I even have special ones for band!

Do you have any advice for getting over my fear of living in a big city?



I’ve actually called Gustavus multiple times, and they would indeed count me as a freshman, scholarships included, even with my amount of credits.

The problem with calling colleges is that there are just so many options! And, as an upcoming junior, I don’t want to spend my whole next year calling every college I’m interested in to just be directed from department to department. I’ll study hard for the PSAT; that’ll make everything a little bit easier.

You need to look very carefully at what colleges want from you as a high school student. You need to hit those recommended courses hard if you want scholarships from them. Most selective colleges want 4 years of math with Calculus 1 and 2. They also often want 4 years of foreign language.

I think you are having problems figuring out your priorities here. Are you trying to get that AA degree from community college as s priority? Do you want to be treated like a transfer student? That is quite different from being considered as s freshman. There are certain set courses. Selective colleges want from their high school grads.

It’s way early to give you any chances. No test scores yet. No PSEO classes are being weighted.

Does your high school offer a good array of AP courses? What colleges do kids going the route you are end up attending? Usually kids do as you are when their high school does not offer the courses at the difficulty level they should have to be competitive in selective colleges, or…to go directly into sophomore or junior year at an in state public
school. I don’t know any kids who just go to CC for junior and senior year of high school entirely and then get credit for those courses as an incoming college junior but coming in as a freshman at these selective private schools.

These selective schools are not all that impressed with the non basic academics at community college. It’s great to get that calculus or sciences or other solid academic course done there when your high school doesn’t offer it. Stats is not considered as big of a deal.

You need to talk to your high school counselor and to the Admissions Officers. at some of these LACs you have on your list. I don’t think you are going about this the optimal way, or maybe not even a possible way to get into selective LACs, much less get substantial merit money from them

I totally understand not wanting to drive around the U. But I don’t think it’s necessary, either, because you can walk to so much, or take the bus or light rail. Maybe your parents would take you for a campus tour so you can see for yourself.

But it’s okay if you don’t think it’s for you. There are lots of schools in and near MN (and I’m sure elsewhere; I just don’t know as much about those) that you could possibly get down to a cost of about $20-25,000, many of which are in smaller communities. The less selective ones are most likely to end up costing you the least, so you may need to think about the tradeoff between being challenged and affordability. Have a talk with your parents and see if they will look at some of the websites for schools you’re interested in, look at the cost of attendance and available scholarships, and run the Net Price Calculator to see what financial aid you might get. They may not realize how expensive college is now and how hard it is to get a full ride or full-tuition scholarship.

If you do want to stay at or under about $25,000/year I’d guess (based on what I’ve found from looking into things for my own kids with similar stats) that the UW satellite schools (e.g. La Crosse and Eau Claire) would be the least expensive but you can also possibly look at Minnesota State Mankato; NDSU and UND; UMN-Morris and UMN-Duluth; and some of the less-selective LACs like Concordia, Luther, and St. Mary’s.

I think cptofthehouse is right that if you want to apply to selective LACs you should think carefully about your plan to do full-time PSEO; taking honors or AP classes at your high school will look better.

If you’re hoping to try to get done in two or three years keep in mind a few things: 1) you might take longer just because certain required classes need to be taken in order and some may only be offered specific terms (e.g. fall only, or fall of even years only), 2) less time in school gives you less time, and fewer summers, for research, travel, and internships, 3) it can be hard to have all your general ed classes done first because then you’re spending your two years with a pretty tough course load of classes in your major, and 4) it may be challenging socially to start out at orientation with students who end up graduating a year or two after you.